1×10: Curtis Williams, Owner of North St. Bags

Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to learn about Curtis Williams, owner of North St.Bags, creators of high quality bike bags and panniers, based in Portland, OR. I wanted to interview someone from North St. Bags after reading some of their Instagram posts highlighting their efforts to produce their awesome bags in a sustainable manner. I’m excited to meet Curtis at the upcoming NAHBS in Sacramento and if you’ll be there, make sure to stop by and say hi to the North St. Bags crew!

1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?

I first started riding a bike to get around while living in Manhattan after college. This was before many of the bike lanes were built in, and any that were there were mostly ignored. It felt freeing to move about quickly in such a dense city.

“It felt freeing to move about quickly in such a dense city.”

2. Favorite bike?

My favorite lately has been my Kona Process. I’m fairly new to mountain biking, but that bike sure makes it fun.

3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?

 I’ve done a few small tours over the years. My favorite was a trip I took from San Francisco to Los Angeles down the 101. I knew little about bikes or gear at the time, but it didn’t matter. We slept on the ground, swam in the ocean, and ate whatever we wanted.

“We slept on the ground, swam in the ocean, and ate whatever we wanted.”

4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?

Anyone who uses a bike to better themselves and/or connect to the world around them.

5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?

Don’t be intimidated! Cycling is for everyone, it’s easy to do, and there are a lot of people out there who can help.

6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?

I love the emergence of gravel bikes. As a lifelong hiker and backpacker, I find riding a bike on a remote trail to be a great way to experience nature. I’ve pedaled more than a few miles along highways and on narrow shoulders, and definitely see the appeal of getting out in the woods and fields.

“As a lifelong hiker and backpacker, I find riding a bike on a remote trail to be a great way to experience nature.”

7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?

I believe cycling is inherently a healthy, responsible, and sustainable mode of transportation. We aim to design and produce quality products to promote more of it.

8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?

A big part of my aim with North St. is connecting people to the manufacturing process. This is why we make all of our products in-house using US-made materials. It keeps the supply chain simple and lets you meet the people behind the process instead of being detached from it.

“A big part of my aim with North St. is connecting people to the manufacturing process.”

9. What’s your biggest challenge/obstacle to success?

Growing a small business is a huge challenge. We often have limited bandwidth to produce our goods and spread the word. I’ve learned a lot over the past 10 years of being open, and I have a lot more to learn. Frequently, the biggest obstacle is simply meeting and keeping up with that growth, be it developing and launching new products, or innovating business operations in order to keep up with demand (doing more with less).

10. How can people help? Where can they learn more about your work?

The next time you shop for something, stop and consider its source. Where is it made? Who are the people actually making it? Does it come from a responsible source, or is the process obscured? Does the price reflect the true cost of the product?

“The next time you shop for something, stop and consider its source.”

Curtis Williams is the owner of North St. Bags in Portland, OR. When he’s not overseeing the production of high quality bike bags and panniers using U.S. sourced (and many from the Pacific NW area) materials, he can be found riding and hiking around the PNW.

Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at virtcyc@gmail.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.

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